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Group Reads Discussion > Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, And Wear Cows

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message 1: by d4 (last edited Feb 26, 2011 11:01PM) (new)

d4 | 109 comments Mod
This thread is for discussing Melanie Joy's book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism. Feel free to post any general observations or questions you have as you're reading.

Melanie Joy is going to be at UCF on the 19th of March. Our group will have an opportunity to ask her questions, so this might be a good starting point for discussion: are there any questions you have that we should ask the author? Make us look smart! ;)

message 2: by Jessi (new)

Jessi (jessiv) | 13 comments Mod
Here is Melanie's website:

message 3: by d4 (last edited Mar 07, 2011 10:23AM) (new)

d4 | 109 comments Mod
I've been contemplating the term "carnist" and how to use it in a manner that is not offensive to actual carnists. It's difficult because the term is still so new that although a definition is provided, it's really still up to us to determine its use. It could easily be turned into a pejorative word if the early adopters of the term are not careful. That would defeat the purpose of having the term in the first place--to open discussion and allow people to re-examine the belief system in which they were born, not to alienate them.

The website addresses this:
"Most carnists, unlike the aforementioned “ists,” don’t even realize they are carnists, since the ideology of carnism is invisible; they are inadvertent carnists. And most people consider the unnecessary slaughter and consumption of animals to be offensive, so being referred to as a carnist - one who enables such violence - could cause offense. It is therefore important that “carnist” be used with sensitivity. Until the concept of carnism has become more mainstream, vegetarians may want to use “carnist” primarily as an adjective, rather than a noun - saying, for instance, that supporting “humane” meat production reflects a carnistic bias, since the unnecessary slaughter of animals is an ideologically driven practice."

So I'm going to try to use carnist as an adjective, although it will take a bit of mental foresight to frame sentences correctly. It is too easy to offend people without even realizing it, and when we do so, we lose the opportunity to even have a conversation regarding things that matter very much to us.

message 4: by Jessi (new)

Jessi (jessiv) | 13 comments Mod
I think it's an excellent word in general, but that is a very good point. It sounds like an insult like racist or sexist. Almost all of us were carnists earlier in life, and it doesn't help our cause to make people think that we are insulting them, but...

Dr. Joy has a good point too: "... "Carnist" is not meant to be pejorative; it is merely meant to be descriptive, describing one who acts in accordance with the tenets of carnism - just as "capitalist," "Buddhist," "socialist," or "raw foodist," for example, describe those who act in accordance with a particular ideology. If we have a name for vegetarians, it only makes sense to have a name for those whose behaviors reflect the opposing belief system."

So we could use that as a "defense" if someone gets offended. I will try to start framing it as an adjective for now too though.

Def check out the website those of you that haven't yet - it's very in-depth, so even if you don't read the book (although I hope you do) you could still follow along with the discussion and come to the book club Meetup.

message 5: by d4 (new)

d4 | 109 comments Mod
Rereading this (along with a few other books) makes me think more and more that a good deal of animal advocacy could be restructured to be more effective. In particular, I feel that it would be better to model the movement after previous social movements that have been successful. Some better known organizations seem to be intent on using the same tactics as mainstream media/advertising, such as the idea that "sex sells." It may get attention but I don't think it efficiently changes behavior. I like her comparison with the feminist movement--that it wasn't focused on changing one "sexist" at a time.

message 6: by d4 (new)

d4 | 109 comments Mod
From the book: "Consider, too, our common usage of the phrase living thing, and our equally common failure to recognize this phrase as an oxymoron."

I've used the phrase "living thing" so many times without giving thought to this. It's astounding how unaware we can be of the language we use.

Language is definitely a vital component of social change. "Whoever defines the issue controls the debate."

message 7: by Jessi (new)

Jessi (jessiv) | 13 comments Mod
It's pretty quiet on the discussion front!
I don't have the book anymore, but I will look through the website for some questions tomorrow.
Which book club participants are coming to the event on Saturday? Or is it going to be just me and Dara meeting with Melanie?!

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Following the conversation on using the word "carnism" I thought that I would provide the sections in the book where it is first introduced to keep the conversation going: "Carnism is the belief system in which eating certain animals is considered ethical and appropriate" (p. 30). Joy goes on to explain that "Carnists eat meat not because they need to, but because they choose to, and choices always stem from beliefs" (p. 30).

While I've heard other people, mostly Jessi and Dara :), use the term, I've never used it myself since I didn't understand it until I started reading Joy's book. I agree that it's a term that needs to be named and needs to be used with sensitivity and understanding of what it really means, since using it in the presence of anyone may lead to having to explain this word's meaning. But for me, it will take a bit of getting used to before I use it confidently.

I'm curious about what everyone else thinks about the concept and/or use of the word "carnism/carnist".

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Another question to consider: In chapter two, Joy points to studies of soldiers that "demonstrate that even in the face of immediate danger, in situations of extreme violence, most people are averse to killing" and "have found themselves to be 'conscientious objectors'". What do you think about these studies? How may these studies relate to the experiences of slaughterhouse workers?

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

With the introduction of Joy's "carnism" and her explanation on how well-known words such as "vegetarian" and "vegan" came into existence, it has reminded me that the world really needs a new word. More and more people are embracing the fact that being vegan goes hand-in-hand with being an environmentalist and being a humanitarian; that having compassion for all "living beings" (wink @ Dara from discussion above) is the way to go.

So, why then don't we have a single, uniting word for such a person and such a lifestyle yet? Humane Education, as defined by Zoe Weil, President and Co-founder of the Institute for Humane Education , is the closest concept that I have found to embody compassion for all. But calling yourself a "humane educator" doesn't have the same umpf as "vegan" or "environmentalist" or "humanitarian". What are your thoughts on this?

message 11: by d4 (new)

d4 | 109 comments Mod
Can you condense these questions for the book club meeting tomorrow? I don't wanna write all this down. ;)

IMO the term "humane educator" is a bit off-putting. Because it isn't part of the typical lexicon, people may not automatically identify with it, even when it fits them. I took a few minutes of deliberation before I joined the Humane Educators of Central Florida because of the terminology. I didn't know if it was strictly for "professional" educators. I probably wouldn't have taken the gamble of joining if I hadn't already been to one or two of your library talks.

At the same time I know there are quite a few vegans who are put off by some connotations of the term "vegan." Some would rather identify with the term "vegetarian" because it seems less "extreme" to society; others would avoid labels completely. There are a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions about vegans so I understand that desire; however, I feel that it is all the more reason for the people who DON'T reflect those stereotypes to embrace the term vegan. How else will we ever negate those stereotypes? It's a perfectly good word (!!!!!) and it does pack that "umpf" so let's not allow it be hijacked by others.

Joy states that we cannot address the system of carnism as long as it remains invisible and unnamed. In a sense, I feel that is true of veganism as well. How can we expect veganism to be be accepted by the mainstream if even the people who are vegan do not stand behind being labeled as vegan?

I'm not saying the label has to define who you are. You're allowed to have many labels and "vegan" doesn't have to be the first thing you declare to the people you meet. In terms of finding acceptance, the vegan movement--and redefining the term so that it no longer holds a negative connotation--is going to require exactly the kind of people who feel uncomfortable with the term as it is now.

I love that Melanie Joy quoted Voltaire during her Q&A. "The perfect is the enemy of the good." Irrational vegans have turned veganism into some demented and pointless purity contest instead of working to make the movement accessible to everyone for the benefit of the animals. And that view of vegans as judgmental and holier-than-thou is the one that most carnists have.

Something my boyfriend said to me illustrates my point. He witnessed quite a few online encounters with vegans who were less than pleasant. During the latest debacle, a vegan verbally attacked two of my friends with sexist and homophobic comments and "fat jokes." All of which I found offensive. I get frustrated when someone alienates my friends and undoes the little progress I've made in showing people that vegans are reasonable and compassionate. Unfortunately, something about online interaction seems to bring out antagonistic qualities in people, and there are a lot of people whose exposure to vegans is limited to what they read online.

I vented to my boyfriend and his reply was along the lines of "Did you ever think that maybe most vegans AREN'T reasonable and that you're an exception?"

I *know* that isn't the case. But that is exactly what people are going to think if reasonable vegans make a point not to be labeled vegan, and thus allow irrational people to take over the word.

Am I making any sense at all?


message 12: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 54 comments No *Crickets*. :) I'm sorry I've been MIA. Lots going on in my life and it pretty much all concretes my decision to be vegan. The health of people around me is sucking (yes, that's a scientific term) and I'm the healthiest I've ever been. I keep saying, "cut down on the meat" or "cut down on the dairy," but I don't know that I'm reaching anyone. I'm hoping I'm planting seeds.

Anyway, I started the book later than I wanted to so I may not be finished by tonight's discussion, but I'm loving what I'm reading. "Carnist" sounds like an insult to me. Probably because sexist and racist have negative connotations. So, it's up to us to turn it around and take the negative connotation out of it so it doesn't sound like an insult. Though, I think being a carnist is negative (like being racist and sexist) I don't want to insult anyone and jeopardize changing someone's opinion.

In rescue, if there is something on an applicant's application to adopt that we don't like (dogs are kept outside or fed a poor quality food), instead of declining their application before speaking to them I call and try to educate. If they're adament about keeping Fido outside then I'll decline the application. But, I try to first educate. That might be my Education background though. I think the same goes for Humane Education. Reaching out to someone and educating them about veganism without preaching to them is going to leave a lasting impression. We must embrace the label "vegan" and wear it proudly. Denying it is only hurting the cause. It's also important we take it back from the people like the ones Dara mentioned above. That's just sad. :(

So far my favorite quote is: "We have left the fox to guard the chicken coop. And not surprisingly, we have ended up with shit in our meat."

message 13: by Jessi (new)

Jessi (jessiv) | 13 comments Mod
I found an article for Danielle... TONS of facts! : )

message 14: by Britt (new)

Britt Finch Did anyone buy this on Kindle? If so, would you be willing to lend it my way?

Thank you!

message 15: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 54 comments This is late, but I bought it on Nook. Can Nook and Kindle share?

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